The first edition of this book profoundly challenged and divided students of philosophy, sociology, and the history of science when it was published in 1976. In this second edition, Bloor responds in a substantial new Afterword to the heated debates engendered by his book.
David Bloor's challenging new evaluation of Wittgenstein's account of rules and rule-following brings together the rare combination of philosophical and sociological viewpoints. Wittgenstein enigmatically claimed that the way we follow rules is an "institution" without ever explaining what he meant by this term. Wittgenstein's contribution to the debate has since been subject to sharply opposed interpretations by "collectivist" and "individualist" readings by philosophers; in the light of this controversy, Bloor argues convincingly for a collectivist, sociological understanding of Wittgenstein's later work. (...) Accessible and simply written, this book provides the first consistent sociological reading of Wittgenstein's work for many years. (shrink)
: H-J Rheinberger's book Toward a History of Epistemic Things contains a sophisticated account of scientific reference and scientific method worked out in conjunction with a case study of the laboratory synthesis of proteins. This paper offers a detailed critical analysis of Rheinberger's position from the standpoint of the sociology of scientific knowledge. The central thesis is that Rheinberger's account of reference, whether deliberately or unwittingly, assimilates discourse about the natural world to discourse about the social world. The result is (...) an inadequate account of scientific terms, which does not do justice to the independent character of the objects of scientific knowledge. A further feature of Rheinberger's approach is a commitment to an extreme form of methodological pluralism. This is challenged in the paper on the basis of a sociological reading of Carnap's famous identification of a "continuum of inductive methods.". (shrink)
I offer a reply to criticisms of the Strong Programme presented by Stephen Kemp who develops some new lines of argument that focus on the ‘monism’ of the programme. He says the programme should be rejected for three reasons. First, because it embodies ‘weak idealism’, that is, its supporters effectively sever the link between language and the world. Second, it challenges the reasons that scientists offer in explanation of their own beliefs. Third, it destroys the distinction between successful and unsuccessful (...) instrumental action. Kemp is careful to produce quotations from the supporters of the programme as evidence to support his case. All three points deserve and are given a detailed response and the interpretation of the quoted material plays a significant role in the discussion. My hope is that careful exegesis will offset the numerous misinterpretations that are current in the philosophical literature. Particular attention is paid to what is said about the normative standards involved in the application of empirical concepts. The operation of these standards in the face of the negotiability of all concepts is explored and misapprehensions on the topic are corrected. The work of Wittgenstein, Popper, Kuhn and Hesse is used to illustrate these themes.Keywords: Strong Programme; Social constructionism; Idealism; Monism; Finitism; Relativism. (shrink)
How are social and institutional circumstances linked to the knowledge that scientists produce? To answer this question it is necessary to take risks: speculative but testable theories must be proposed. It will be my aim to explain and then apply one such theory. This will enable me to propose an hypothesis about the connexion between social processes and the style and content of mathematical knowledge.
At the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries a concerted effort was made in the discipline of fluid mechanics to make hidden and fleeting processes visible and to capture the results photographically. I examine two important cases. One concerns the photographs taken by H. S. Hele-Shaw in the 1890s showing the flow of a “perfect”, frictionless fluid. The other case deals with the photographs of boundary layer separation taken by Ludwig Prandtl. These were presented to the Third International Congress (...) of Mathematicians in Heidelberg in 1904. My concern in both cases will be with the relation of the photographs to the reality actually or putatively portrayed in the photograph. Superficially the two cases are very different. “Perfect” fluids were accepted as mere mathematical abstractions to which nothing real could correspond while the reality of the boundary layer has been accepted as a discovery of enormous physical and technical importance. A detailed examination, however, suggests some inner connections of a kind that challenges the understanding of certain “common sense” distinctions between the two cases.Keywords: Sichtbarmachung; Fluid mechanics; Perfect fluids; Boundary layer; Social construction; Prandtl; Hele-Shaw. (shrink)
The aim is to explain and defend the slogan that 'objectivity is social'. The sense of external reference of our common sense classifications and our moral and scientific beliefs derives from their having the character of social institutions. This claim provides a fruitful way of interpreting popper's doctrine of the 'third world' of objective knowledge. The implications of the sociological approach are explored with material drawn from the history of science and religion.
I want to propose to you a theory about the nature of objectivity—a theory which will tell us something about its causes, its intrinsic character, and its sources of variation. The theory in question is very simple. Indeed, it is so simple that I fear you will reject it out of hand. Here is the theory: it is that objectivity is social. What I mean by saying that objectivity is social is that the impersonal and stable character that attaches to (...) some of our beliefs, and the sense of reality that attaches to their reference, derives from these beliefs being social institutions. (shrink)
Two points of contact are explored between contemporary philosophy of science and Dialectical Materialism. The first point deals with the interaction view of metaphor as an exemplification of the law of the unity of opposites. The contradiction is then noted between the strategy and tactics of much analytical philosophy and the lesson to be learnt from this account of metaphor. The concern to change category habits into category disciplines rules out the process of conceptual change of the interaction view. G. (...) A. Paul's dismissal of Lenin's theory of reflection is then criticized in the light of the interaction view. (shrink)